A Guiding Light: Fruit Logistica Overview
There is no disputing the fact that New Zealand is its own country and its people have their own view of the world and their place in it. The horticulture sector is no different and while we sit downunder and have our own unique market drivers to shape the way our future evolves, the larger overseas markets most certainly provide a guiding light as to what some of the elements are that shape our future.
When our team attends the various horticulture and packaging trade shows, conferences and workshops around the world we are not just there to share a coffee with our industry peers, customers and suppliers, we have our eyes wide open, looking for the guiding light.
On our recent trip to Fruit Logistica Berlin, we got the clearest steer yet from unsurprising corners.
While the word and the sentiment is far from new, this year sustainability came out of the corner and sat in the middle of the stage. The conversation around sustainable packaging has shifted from optional to inevitable. Where there was once half a dozen serious contenders in the sustainability space at a large show, there would have been a hundred in Berlin. While some try to humour sustainability (e.g. a cardboard tray, but it is heavily laminated and printed in inorganic inks) there are some seriously genuine contributors (e.g. fibre trays or woven netting bags that break down in home compost in 90 days or less, and certified accordingly). The issue around cost remains where these products do in many situations contribute to a higher per-pack cost, but the gap is closing fast and the customers are getting noisier about wanting more of it.
While we have seen automation working its way through our industry for decades, the pace and drivers are changing. Labour is at the core of the drivers, however the next layer down is different all over the globe. While I speak in very general terms, you can arguably say that in New Zealand the availability and reliability of labour supply is the driver, while in the U.S. it is the cost of labour ratcheting up dramatically over recent and future years driving the need.
New Zealand has been a significant contributor to the world of horticulture automation with the likes of Compac leading the way in fruit grading or Fruit Handling Systems producing arguably the world’s best rotary bin filler for apples for many years. Now we are seeing the likes of Robotics Plus delivering headline making solutions in the pollinating, harvesting and packing space with their smart technologies.
The difference on this trip to Berlin was class. We are seeing a shift in the class in which automation is being delivered. Where traditionally the industry was okay with a more ‘agricultural’ look, feel and function from our mechanisation we are now seeing class and smarts transitioning from the pharmaceutical and FMCG space into our world. Gone are the welders and grease guns as we welcome in beautifully formed curves, anodising, bead blasted stainless steel and of course under the hood we are seeing a shift from PLC to micro processing and machine learning.
Based on the momentum we saw gathered between Fruit Logistica Berlin 2017 and 2018, it will be interesting to see what 2019 has in store for us. The Jenkins Freshpac Systems Facebook page provides live video and photo snippets during trade shows so jump in there and ‘like’ the page to be kept in the loop as news rolls off the press.